“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
I’ve been having an ongoing email dialogue with a friend and colleague since we aren’t able to see each other. We email each other once a week or so since our state’s “shelter-in-place” order went into effect in mid-March.
Last Friday, he responded to an earlier email about a concert on PBS. He really liked last week’s blog and asked me how I could write during the Pandemic. I replied I am not sure how I am going to continue to write something new every week, since about half of my regular blogs concern ChoralNetters emailing me with problems. Well, I needn’t have worried.
An hour after the back and forth with my friend, I received two emails from readers, both concerning an almost identical problem. Marta* said her pastor had just sent out an email, essentially relieving her of her position as adult church choir director. Their congregation will never again have a choir or sing hymns during worship. Greta* emailed with a similar story, though her congregation will no longer have a choir or sing hymns in worship for the foreseeable future, whatever that means. Both pastors “hinted” it was their denomination’s new policy, though didn’t specifically say so.
I asked both if their pastors had been supportive of their choirs before the Pandemic. Both responded “no.” I also asked if there had ever been issues with hymns and both responded “yes.” It seems to me, their pastors were looking for any excuse to get rid of their choirs as well as gain control of all singing in their congregations. The Pandemic was as convenient an excuse as any, more’s the pity. Folks will be eager to blame singing if that serves their purpose.
I suggested both contact their denominations and their denominations’ music organizations. It may not be their policy AT ALL but a temporary solution when congregations are FIRST able to worship together. Things are up in the air and everyone wants to do what’s best for their congregants. Not EVER singing together again doesn’t seem like the best, for anyone!
I don’t think these will be the last emails I will receive in this vein. In fact, I expect many choral and music teachers will soon be told their programs are being cut in the interest of the “health and safety” of their students. Superintendents, principals and other administrators who wanted to cancel expensive music programs in normal times will jump on the NO SINGING Bandwagon. I also believe other music programs besides vocal ones will be cut along similar lines. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think so.
Of course, there are Worship Communities, music organizations and school districts who will not even THINK about canceling their choruses because their clergy, administrators, singers and parents believe in, love and value them. But there will still need to be changes as we navigate life AFTER COVID-19. As long as we, the Choral Professionals, are at the table for this discussion, we should be able give HONEST input for the greater good. If we don’t figure out how to get to the other side, our Art Form will suffer. When we ARE able to sing together, there won’t be anyone left to sing with us.
But what can we do? The worst thing would be NOT to be prepared; and prepared with talking points BEFORE any changes, with ideas at the ready. We also know it will be a while before things get back to anywhere near normal, so we might have some time.
So let’s start thinking; why is choral music important? Why is SINGING TOGETHER important? Yes, it feeds the soul and brings people together but WHAT ELSE? Here are some ideas to get you started for your own talking points.
- Anthems in worship enhance the sermon/homily and the scripture readings of the day
- Hymn singing encourages congregations to think about the same things at the same time
- Music helps the Worship Service move along and continues the traditions of denomination and congregation
- Children who study music do better in mathematics and science
- Music is an outlet for expression when words are not enough
- Songs teach history and culture and as well as the actual songs
- Singing in foreign languages help TEACH those foreign languages
- Singing together builds community between different kinds of people
These are just a few ideas—please share your own in the comments below to help us all.
We WILL get through this but we no longer have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We DO have the time to be creative, to think outside of the box so we are prepared with suggestions when we are asked. Or, when we are TOLD what is best for our programs, we are able to counter with our OWN ideas, and with confidence.
Until next week, be well!
I am taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Please join me there this morning!